§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he will make a statement on the circumstances in which supplementary benefit payments were made to a large party of students from Paddington College who Claimed assistance for their travelling expenses to their homes in London after a dispute with the drivers of their hired coaches at Clacton on Sea; what inquiries were made into the means of these students; what attempts were made or advice given to obtain funds from friends or relatives for their journey; what approaches were made to British Railways for arrangements to be made to allow those who lacked the fare to travel free on condition that they paid later; what was the total cost to public funds of the payments made; and how much has been recovered.
§ Mr. Orme
Late on Sunday 4th July the Clacton police sought the help of the Department's local officer on standby emergency duty for a stranded party of about 150, including some young children, needing to return to London. The last train was due to leave Clacton just before 9.30 p.m., and no other transport was available. Those with sufficient resources wert left to make their own arrangements, but in view of the overriding duty of the Supplementary Benefits Commission to meet urgent need travel warrants had to be provided for the others. There was insufficient time to286W approach relatives and friends, or for special arrangements to be made with British Railways. The officer had to travel on the same train in order to complete staetments from those assisted; he did not return home until the following morning. About 100 people, including four children, received help at a cost of just under £300. The question of repayment is now being pursued. I consider that the Department's officer handled a difficult situation very well.